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El Naranjo

Valerio Trujano 203, tel: (951) 514-1878

www.elnaranjo.com.mx

I had dinner here my first night in Oaxaca. All the praise for the food here is well deserved. Started off with a margarita. With the bread you get small dishes of pate (very good), butter flavored with orange peel and a salsa (I believe). I started off with a nuez (pecan) and chiplotle soup - creamy, thick, nutty fragrance and a very restrained hint of smoky chipotle. Next was a jicama and hibiscus salad. The crunch of the jicama, the tartness of the hibiscus was balanced by pieces of thick bacon. I had the wednesday mole (Manchamanteles) with pork. (Why can't we have pork as flavorful in America?) The mole is enhanced with plantain and pineapple - very satisfying. Next I had the stuffed chile with calabaza flowers in a light tomato and almond sauce. Wonderfully delicate and layered flavors. For desert I had flan - which was fine. Service was efficient and polite. I met Iliana - the chef and owner. I had also schedule to attend a cooking class ($50 US) at El Naranjo for the next day. Class had about 10 people. We learned to make various salsas, guacamole (no garlic please and especially no mayonnaise, as one person confessed to adding to her version), amarillo mole, tortilla sopa with the traditional condiments, coconut flan, agua de jamaica, agua de horchata. While the mole simmered we walked over to the mercado and met various vendors. Then we returned to the restaurant to have the lunch we had prepared. This was a great way to start my trip to Oaxaca - the recipes were easy, fun way to meet other people, very hands on experience. Came back for lunch another day: started off with gazpacho - made traditionally, no cream; had the saturday mole (chichilo) with pork - once again flavorful and dense; dad the ancho chilie stuffed with goat cheese in an almond sauce - the goat cheese was creamy, not exceedingly tart(?) and didn't overwhelm the ancho. What impressed me most about all this dishes were how restrained and layered they were - the different flavours really came through.

La Purisima

Allende 208, tel: 50-1-09-27

Located near Santo Domingo. This restaurant has a great roof terrace - ideal for afternoon and evening drinks and/or dinner - the view of the surrounding mountains at night is magical. Great courtyard also. The food was competent. I had dinner here twice and afternoon margaritas numerous times. Both sopas I had - guisa and tortilla - were very good. Had a quesadilla with oaxacan cheese and espazote - which was average - the tortilla was a bit tough. The main dishes were okay - I had chicken with almond type mole and pescado (fish) with grapes - both nice but not extraordinary. Service was very welcoming and gracious. I did have crepes flambe with strawberries and vanilla ice cream my last night in Oaxaca - sitting in an ocher colored courtyard beneath a midnight blue sky, half moon and Orion.

Hosteria de Acala

M. Alcala 307, tel 51-620-93

Located near Santo Domingo. A cool and inviting courtyard is a nice respite from the afternoon sun. For breakfast I had chilequiles so I opted for a light lunch - started with a plate of chorizo and oaxaca cheese which had been heated and mixed together, black beans and guacamole with warm tortillas (similar to queso flamedo). Also had the house salad and a corn & poblano soup. Everything was pleasant.

Los Danzantes

M. Alcala 403, tel: (951)501-11-84

This was the most contempory meal I had in Oaxaca. A great modern space done in that hip, cool, minimalist Mexican tone. The crowd consists of a lot of cell phone and beeper types. As for the food: apple&avocado salad with a grainy mustard vinagrette - nice, pleasant and light - crisp apple, creamy avocado, robust mustard - interesting combination. Had a seafood soup with chipoltle - shrimp. mussels, scallops - which was fine. Ordered the ravioli stuffed with huitlacoche with a poblano sauce - very interesting dish - the pasta I thought to be a bit too thick - beautifully presented.

Alejandro - Casa Oaxaca

Garcia Vigil 402, tel: (01-951) 514-4173

www.casaoaxaca.net

Wonderfully updated mexican cuisine. Casa Oaxaca is both a hotel and restaurant. The restaurant is in the main courtyard - very pleasant. Started with a grapefruit and avocado salad. For sopa - fresh creamed corn with poblano strips - must have been just prepared, the corn tasted that fresh. Chile nogada - poblano stuffed with both pork and beef with a walnut sauce but not battered (which I prefer) - very good. For desert -pineapple and banana pie - which was okay. Had a wonderful mezcal afterwards - Mezcal Cuerudo, Sabores y Tradiciones de Oaxaca las Casas St. - extremely smooth. You'll need to make dinner reservations - be sure stop by and confirm if done by email.

La Ascuncion

Hostal de La Noria, Av. Hidalgo 918, tel: (951)514-78-44

www.lanoria.com

This was probably my most "traditional" meal: caesar salad, which was prepared at my table - crisp green romaine leaves lightly coated; huitlacoche in chicken consomme - a beautiful bowl of glistening black pearls of various size in a rich chicken consomme - delicious and beautiful; filet mignon topped with a mild cheese and oaxqueno chile sauce - cooked rare - the flavours really melded well together in this dish - the flavor of the smoked oaxqueno chile is very unique; desert - cheese flan. The restaurant is decorated in colonial style with large floor to ceiling windows that open out to the street

La Fonda de Sto. Domingo

5 de mayo 41, tel: 52 (9)-514-89-24

Located near Santo Domingo. I had a simple lunch - quesadilla with flor de calabza and chilaquiles armarillo with pork. The flowers were so fresh, almost grassy - the oaxacan cheese was smooth and buttery - really delicious. The chilaquilles were simple and good. I can still remember sitting in in this restaurant - the bells at Santo Domingo ringing, occasionally someone walking by - I became very aware that it was siesta time.

El Topil

Plazuela Labastida 104

Located near Santo Domingo, just off Alcala. I had read the food here had a homey touch - the restaurant has that type of feel. Had a tamal de mole negro -they were huge and the masa nicely complimented the mole negro and chicken. For an entree I tried enchiladas de bautro con picallo de tre carnes accompanes de frijoles negro -enchiladas smothered in a mole rojo - it was a hearty dish.

Flor de Oaxaca

311 Armenta

Had nopal salad, oaxacan tamales, poblanos stuffed with picadillo, fried plantains with sour cream sauce. The nopal salad was bright; the tamales contained mole nego and chicken; the poblanos were cooked in a light tomato broth - very delicate; plantains with a sour cream type sauce was a nice ending.

None of my meals were bad - and some were quite good. What stands out is how restrained , subtle, milder the flavors of real Mexican food is compared to American versions of Mexican, be it authentic or tex mex or what have you. The freshness of produce really impressed me. Real-live-time, freshly squeezed orange juice is so much better than any supposed supermarket fresh orange juice. I don’t think there was a restaurant that didn’t serve the standard seven moles. Probably my only quibble - dishes have the tendency to come to the table pretty quickly. As for wines - Illiana, from El Naranjo suggested a malbec wine. I stuck to margaritas, mexcal and bottled water. By mid week I had become more adventerous and started trying various things in the mercado - with no ill effect. The aroma of cacao roasting or being ground is intoxicating and very heady. Be sure to try it both ways - milk and water. Different intensity of flavors and texture. If you have any questions about Oaxaca, feel free to ask.

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Yes, this report comes at a perfect time for me...I'm leaving for Mexico in a couple of weeks.

Am I understanding it correctly that you took the cooking class from the restaurant El Naranjo?

Were there any food items besides chocolate that you brought back?

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Yes - the cooking class was at El Naranjo - you can email Iliana regarding what days are available.

I was going to bring back dried chiles but bought two pieces (one somewhat delicate) of beauriful Mexican folk art and didn't want to be weighed down being that I only brought a carry on. Also - at customs in JFK I was questioned about whether I had brought back any produce from Mexico - not sure how dried chiles would be treated. I did bring back some chocolate but didn't declare it.

Forgot to mention - I have photos posted on my Oaxaca page at virtualtourist.com, if you're interested.

I'll also post a short report to this thread regarding things I did while in Oaxaca.

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One other thing - prices. For example, dinner at El Naranjo - three margaritas, soup, salad, mole dish, stuffed chile, dessert, coffee and tip came out to about $450 pesos - a bargain as far I'm concerned. Everything is very reasonable - and if you're on a really tight budget the mercado is the place to eat. I regret not trying some of the grilled meats at the mercado (next time).

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thanks, mark--i'll print this out for my trip in june. great info--thanks for names, addresses, etc.

joy and others-- i always bring back food. from ecuador last month i brought chocolate, raw cacao beans, cumin, anise, achiote, corn meal and corn flour and dried beans. in the past my husband has brought home dried peppers. we have never been stopped or questioned about bringing back food. we got stopped at customs for having so much luggage coming back from guatemala--we bought a ton of stuff.

i think it depends on you--if you are in a hurry or a light traveler, you'll want to bring back less. as far as getting stopped for having dried peppers, the most they'll do is take them away from you.

our family motto: make 'em tell you NO.

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stellabella,

Interesting that you bring back beans. Are they notably different in South America? Are the spices different, fresher?

marktynernyc,

How do I access your pictures?

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Sounds like a great trip Marty, too bad you didn't get to Tlamanalli in Teotitlan del Valle.

Did you go to the big weekend market out by the railroad station? Did they ever build a McDonalds in the Zocalo? There was a big contraversy last year.

For those of you travelling to Oaxaca here's a warning. There are several hotels right around the zocalo. At seven or eight o'clock every morning the army, accompanied by a band, marches into the zocalo to raise the Mexican flag. This can be a rude awakening if you've had too much mezcal the night before.

Edit: I would definately try to bring back peppers. Many of the stalls in the market have 30+ different varieties of dried peppers where as I can only find about 10 different kinds here.

Edited by guajolote (log)
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...

marktynernyc,

How do I access your pictures?

I'm impatient, so I searched around myself. Clickity.

I really do need to explore more of Mexico. This report is both making me hungry and giving me the urge to check airline prices! I'm just curious as to how you decided upon these particular restaurants. Obviously you did some research, but I was just wondering what sources you were using.

Thanks.

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i bought a bag of dried beans--they are the most beautiful beans i've ever seen--they're speckled and marbled and multi-colored--i asked different people what they were called and they said, "frijoles" :hmmm:

then i asked if they were a particular type of frijoles. no, just frijoles

joy--yes, the spices are intensely aromatic. while you're in the markets if you feel inspired to purchase something, do. even if you don't bring it back, you might enjoy the transaction.

i'd like to add--i am grateful that i spent some time in the food stalls, not just wandering through, but actually buying. it was a great opportunity to practice the language. it was fun to talk to the abuelitas. it was interesting to get an idea of how much things cost, for "real" people. of course i was often charged a tourist or gringo price, but nonetheless, the food stalls are dirt cheap compared to the artesanias--it gives you a sense of just how poor the economy is.

and i am sure one would typically bargain for food, but i didn't. when the smiling grandmother asked me for thirty cents, i couldn't bring myself to say, nooooo....twenty-five :wacko:

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201 -

Here how to get to my Oaxaca page:

1. go to virtualtourist.com

2. in the 'SEARCH FOR' box enter MARKTYNERNYC, click on MEMBERS then hit GO

3. under member & motto click on marktynernyc

4. click on 'VIEW ALL TRAVEL PAGES' (right side of web page)

5. scroll down to North America: Mexico: Estado de Oaxaca:

click on Oaxaca de Juarez which will take you to my Oaxaca page

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  • 2 months later...

Pardon any redundancies--my post will certainly draw from much of what has been written here already. I just returned from three weeks in the city of Oaxaca, studying Spanish, attending cooking classes, eating, living.

I attended the ICO, Jaymes's recommended school. The teachers were excellent, the staff professional & bilingual/cultural, helpful, the curriculum superb. My cultural activity, in addition to four hours daily of instruction, was a cooking class that met for one and a half hours four nights a week, in the school kitchen, with a charming abuelita named Rosita: she walked us through the preparation of atole, memelitas, mole amarillo, chilaquiles, arroz con leche and tamales [with frijoles or epazote]--home-cooking, simple foods, but for students on a budget this is a good way to get a free meal out of the program. I skipped two days of class to attend Susana Trilling's classes at her ranch in Etla. For $75 I was picked up at my posada and taken to the market, then to the ranch for an afternoon of cooking and eating, then brought back to the city again @ 8 pm. The first week we met on Wednesday at the Etla market, myself and three other couples, including one young couple from Brooklyn, on their honeymoon, and she just happened to be a Martha Stewart Living food editor. The next week we met on Tuesday at the Abastos market in Oaxaca--Tuesday because Susana was leaving the next day to give a class in NYC--and this class was huge, including the pastry chef from a famous San Antonio restaurant and a whole cadre of other folks who knew jack, and I mean this literally, about food and cooking, but who had learned about the classes from their Fodor's guides. Attending the class twice, being part of two such distinct groups, my best advice about these [or any classes] is that they're going to be largely determined by the other folks attending. I expected to be at the very low end in terms of knowledge, expertise, etc., and I wasn't--but then, I probably sell myself short. Most annoying for me was having to spend time in a van next to an idiotic American making inane comments such as, "The only thing I don't like about Hispanics is the way they treat their animals," and then, back at the ranch, as Susana described the dishes we were to prepare and passed ingredients for us to sniff and fondle, exclaiming, "Well, I think I'd prefer THIS dish without the star anise!" You get the picture. And I noticed that Susana and her staff responded very differently to the two groups. I think a great deal of her--she is a funky woman, very earthy and very warm, but also la mama, as she herself admits, the person in charge of the show.

We prepared mole rojo the second week--I jumped into that group, along with most of the men who were participating--it was certainly the most labor intensive dish, and the one I felt I most needed walked through. After the mole is blended [and they use a real molino], it gets dumped into sparking-hot lard in a giant olla over coals--NO gas burners! Some of you asked about lard--the stuff we used, what is referred to in Oaxaca as aciendo, is an off-white opaque pourable mess often stored in plastic baggies--my understanding is that lard is expensive for most people and therefor treated quite like a valuable commodity--it's also used in the preparation of the tlayuda--the large corn tortilla smeared with aciendo and black bean sauce, shredded quesillo, maybe some chicken, then folded and grilled on the comal til crispy and dripping--delicious and muy rico.

After cooking everyone at the ranch gathers for the meal, which is served by Oscar, Susana's charming maitre'd, and guests have the option of enjoying and sampling as many mezcals as they like--Susana sells el rey zapoteco reposadas and cremas--I bought small bottles of the quince and passion flower cremas--delightfully fragrant-- plan to use in place of cointreau in my margaritas. As for mezcals--mi marodo y yo brought home eight bottles, mostly reposados, but one good anejo I managed to sample in the Sunday market in Tlacolula. Everyone has a different take on mezcal, what it is or isn't, and how it differs from tequila--most say tequila is the mezcal made from the agave azul of the Tequila region, often aged in oak barrels, giving the anejo the golden color. But many mezcals produced in Oaxaca are fine and smooth, indeed, saltier than tequila, and with a long slow burn. Best to look for those that are fermented naturally after cooking, for seven days, rather than artificially fermented with nitrates. A good place to pick up some good bottles--all of which may be sampled first-- is La Cava in Oaxaca on Gomez Farias.

I did not eat at El Naranjo--the place written up in Bon Apetit, the place that is all the rage these days--Iliana also offers cooking classes. I heard a lot about it--good and bad--good food but noveau, not real Oaxaqueno food, and real Oaxaquenos don't eat there--whether that's true or not I don't know--I didn't eat there because it's a couple blocks south of the Zocala [my posada was nine blocks north] and, well, there are MANY other good places to eat in the city. Chief among them: if it's a grand meal you want, and don't mind shelling out $25 or so, try Catedral on Morelos--my vote for the BEST margaritas in the city, and the cuitlacoche crepes are unforgettable, as are the tamoles de etole. I also like El Asador Vasco because , c'mon, you gotta have at least one meal on the balcony over-looking the zocalo--the waitresses are gorgeous, no-nonsense matrons, but the margaritas are water-y.

I took a lot of cheap meals on the fly: I adored Maria Bonita on Alcala--the entire staff consists of teenaged girls in blue jeans with giant crooked smiles, the food simple and traditional--this is a great place for a leisurely breakfast in the back patio. West of Alcala on Vigil is a pretty hotel with a nice cheap restaraunt, Los Arcos--I liked this place because it was quiet and empty, the balcony totally enclosed by brilliant fuschia bougainvillea.

My Oaxacan friends name Cafe Olla, on Reforma, as their favorite restaurant--mid-priced, un-fussy presentation, adorable staff, charming and colorful interior--mostly traditional oaxacan dishes--AND the woman who owns it ALSO offers cooking classes.

I have reams of advice, but neither the time nor inclination to post it all here, so I'll try to make the most important points:

* avoid the 20 November and Juarez markets--get a cab, or walk, if you are accompanied, to Abastos--and sample the tamales from the women squatting near the food stalls--also try some of the prepared salads from the women who have regular tables--get a large fresh tortilla and have la vendedora fill it with ensalada de nopales, the delicious, baba-y cactus leaf, and steamed quelites, field greens--drizzle some salsa, wrap it up and go.

* stroll west on Morelos the 3 or 4 blocks to the neveria park in front of the Soledad Basilica--a carnival-like atmosphere, almost a dozen families courting your business, and therefore each one serving something truly delightful. The nieve is Oaxacan ice cream, but it isn't ice cream--it isn't gelato, and it isn't sorbet--although you're gonna hear folks using all these analogies to try to describe these incredible icey sweets--the traditional flavor is the smoked milk leche quemada, with a little tuna [made with the brilliant scarlet cactus flesh] on top--but I quickly became addicted to chocolate and cajeta. DON'T miss these.

* go salsa dancing at Candela--arrive @ 9 for some cheap lessons--if you're like me, you'll need them--get dressed up, be pretty, and be prepared to stay up all night dancing your fanny off--great fun--even if you don't dance--the professionals who command the floor are breathtakingly gorgeous and skillful--

* shop at MARO--Mujeres Artesanales Regionlas de Oaxaca, a crafts cooperative, on Cinco de Mayo--the proceeds go to the women from various communities across the state--prices are reasonable, selection huge. Oaxaca is a gringo town and there are many high-priced boutiques with gorgeous pieces for sale--if you have the money and don't care who it goes to, shop wherever you like--but with a little effort you can give your money directly to the artisans--spend a few days browsing and comparing prices and you'll see what I mean--the Magic Hand has great stuff and it's run by funky hippies--but they are charging four times more than folks right across the street. If you really want to see folks at work and buy roght from the artist, you can hire cabs to Teotitlan or Ocotlan, for examplel amd go right to weavers' homes. Another option is to visit the small towns on their market days--there you'll have artisans bringing in their pieces from all over--and of course, the foods are incredible, especially locally grown and roasted coffees.

* chocolate--notice those molinos lining the wall? Don't buy the pre-packaged stuff--order your own chocolate al gusto--tell them how much sugar you want, how much almond, canela, etc--the Oaxacan chocolate tends to be VERY sweet--if you have your chocloate custom-ground ask for about 1/2 to 3/4 kilo of sugar to every kilo of cacao, or less, even, if you are a die-hard bittersweet chocolate fan. In about six hours or so it will start to harden--mold it into small balls or patties and then seal in baggies for your trip home--otherwise you'll end up with one huge leaden block of petrified chocolate.

Buen Provecho--Oaxaca is beautiful--enjoy!

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Estrellita:

Tremendous post, evocative and informative. To say I'm jealous of your experience is not even the half of it.

Yes, our fellow Nordamericanos can make us cringe. We sould all simply leap into the experience, as you did. And, you do sell yourself short.

Question: Of all the dishes you learned, which is going to be the first to appear on your dinner table in Georgia?

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Stella - what a remarkable post. Loved it all, especially the waitresses with the "crooked smiles."

And as I think I've told you, I took a class here in Austin with Susana - and found her to be a really compelling person.

Can hardly wait to find myself in Oaxaca. Of course, I'll hardcopy your post and stick it in my purse to have it at the ready! :rolleyes:

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Thanks... I thoroughly enjoyed your post. And I am also consumed with jealousy. Just kidding. I think it is great that you really went for it.

ACK... My Amex card is itching.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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The first food I hope to replicate in mi cocina encantada is masa:

Bueno, chicitas, I am pretty sure I have this straight-- masa is maiz cocido con cal--en ingles, dried fat corn kernals, what the Mexicans refer to as maiz, cooked in an olla with water and cal until the kernals become tender and the tough hulls start to blister and fall away. Mi marido bought a bag of the cal [lime] so that we can really try this at home.

Next, the cooked kernals are ground on a metate, while wet, to a sludege-y paste--depending on your preference, or your patience, this paste, fine or a little grainy, is your masa, gets patted into tortillas and thrown onto the comal--and that, mis amigas, is a tortilla--no more, no less.

In Zapoteca masa is called nixtamal--and if you listen carefully you will hear this word used more often than you'd think, even though in the city proper there aren't many folks speaking Zapotec.

Okay, so lesson one: masa is maiz cooked with lime then ground to a paste for...tortillas, tamales, etc. We can all get the same info from Rick Bayless, but it was one heck of a lot more fun to learn it from Rosita, in the very heart of Mexico..... :wub:

I bought a comal for $5 from Susana--sure I might have gotten it for a less :blink: at the mercado, but they wrapped it in cardboard and bubble wrap for me and I GOT IT HOME. Last night I used it to roast some peppers and garlics and onions from the garden--the comal is miraculous--if you live in the vicinity of good ethnic Mexican markets, see if you can't find one. The books all say that for tortilla making you could use a cast iron skillet in a pinch, but the comal is a different animal. ANd used for everything--spices get toasted before they're ground in the molcajetes, etc.

Another word on metates: I heard this from everyone--in most families there are at least three: one for masa, one for moles, and one for chocolate--for purposes of purity, of course!

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for purposes of purity, of course!

Of course, of course.

Wonderful post, stella.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Stella - is the comal something you put on your stovetop? Or how do you use it? I see the big ones in the markets and restaurants, and they are all over some sort of a fire. What if all I have is an electric stove??

When I lived in Panama, we could not get any kind of tortillas at all, so I made my own with store-bought masa my family sent me from the states and a tortilla press, frying them on a big pancake griddle.

So, for the corn/masa you describe above, in the States, what would you go into the store and buy? Would you start with the corn or buy some sort of masa?

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I can't stand it when people all start chiming in and saying "great post!" but I really can't help myself:

Great post!

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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